“I owe you a confession.”

The woman’s eyes lit up, perhaps expecting a new turn in the banter, then met his, revisited the gravity in his voice, and settled to the coffee cups on the table between them.

She nodded — I’m ready.

“Last summer, at Pole. I wasn’t completely honest with you.”

Go on.

“It’s about what happened in J-7 that night, with Lawson and Alice.”

She’d been trying to forget that night. Well, not the night itself, but the week of inquiry that lay in its wake. As the Station’s HR rep, it had been her job to…

“Hey — can I ask you for some advice?” The girl stepped out into the streetlight toward me and took a made-for-TV drag off her cigarette.

She’d been nearly camouflaged against the Mermaid’s worn brick, but you learn to make a habit of noticing people if you come down to the waterfront at night. Nuisance? Lurking threat? From the wide eyes, Goodwill jacket and torn denim, I figured her for one of those strays who’d come west following a dream, then woke up cold, hungry and broke one September morning with no way back home. …


He flinched.

“Brian MacDermott?”

He was older, much older than his photo, of course. But those eyes were unmistakable, those brows still furrowed with the piercing gaze that took you by surprise when you first flipped to the inside dust jacket.

One of the infamous brows rose haltingly, questioning as he turned from the green, rainswept valley below to regard his accuser.

He must have delighted in shocking readers with that photo, and my English lit professor had used it to great effect. “Once you’ve finished ‘Willow’s Requiem,’ I’ll ask you to flip to the back of the volume…

[image courtesy Breese Greg, USFWS]

Richard Cater was seven years old when he ran as fast as he could down the parched grassy hill on his uncle’s farm, trying to set the record for human flight. The decorated cardboard wings he’d cut from a discarded Frigidaire box in the barn proved insufficient, and when the force of gravity overtook his small legs’ ability to keep up, he tumbled rudely, leaving a scar shaped like the letter “S” that half-circumnavigated his left kneecap. …

I always try to tell Anna that it’s not the cold that gets you — it’s the wind. “But forty-six below?” she says, “You’re insane!” Of course, she laughs when she says it, and even over the static of the hallway phone, over the unimaginable miles, I could see her, eyes dancing. Her eyes say what they always say when she laughs.

She said she was meeting her girlfriends in the morning for coffee; she’s probably there now, bragging about that crazy husband of hers: “Oh, and then Nicolai tells me, ‘It’s not bad, only forty-six below.’” And they’ll all…

To: Samantha Faye <xxx-xxx-xxxx>
From: Your PolyTech Home Smart Lock
Date: June 3

Hello Samantha — the batteries in your PolyTech Home Smart Lock have about one week of life left in them. Please change them soon to avoid an interruption in service. You can visit PolyTechHome.com for instructions and technical support.

To: Samantha Faye <xxx-xxx-xxxx>
From: Your PolyTech Home Smart Lock
Date: June 9

Hello Samantha — the batteries in your PolyTech Home Smart Lock are critically low. Please change them soon to avoid an interruption in service. You can visit PolyTechHome.com for instructions and technical support.

To: Samantha…

“I had half a mind to make up some story. Wondered if it might make this easier. For you, for me. But it seems wrong to lie about things like this.”

The clatter of cicadas fell like a soft rain. Past the slouched shoulders of the man perched on the kitchen chair, the boy could see poppies blooming in the yard. They were early this year, and he’d had a mind to pick some to bring to Jenny McLaughlin after chores, saying his mother had asked him to. …

And how you’ve come to stand on this brink,
Dreams of another life stuffed into that pillowcase
as best you could gather them

Resolved to shake them free into the ever-rising wind,
And watch them fall, and be carried away by the sea below,
Yet uncertain whether you would follow

[Inspired by some amazing poetry at the Copper Canyon Press open house last night. Yeah, I used to write poetry. And no, don’t worry: it’s metaphor — I’m in no danger of ill-advised plummets or other rash decisions. Most directly, I suppose, just reflecting on my ambivalence about having left the Antarctic Program…]

[image courtesy Rick Otten]

We were waiting for our Saturday afternoon carpool at the end of Hebrew school and my mother was late to pick us up. Yours? Never was. But sometimes, my mother would say, the car wouldn’t start. Or she’d tried to fit in a run to the store for groceries, and the lines were longer than she’d expected. Or Davey had made yet another godawful mess in the garage, and she knew there’d be hell to pay if she let the glue dry where it was.

So we got used to having time to sit and wait. Time to explore the…

photo courtesy Jessica Jozwiak, Detroit Zoological Society

The third-generation CODAR weather stations were designed to come apart easily. Only when you wanted them to, of course. This far down the peninsula didn’t get the sort of rock-scouring, equipment-destroying Southern Ocean storms you got out on Cape Shirreff. But the stations still had to survive and operate on their own for a couple of years on some godforsaken Antarctic island with no human intervention, so they had to be simple.

And they had to be simple to put in and take out, too: aligning the vagaries of the ice with the two-year planning horizon of the Program meant…

David Pablo Cohn

I write stories that explore how our lives intersect with those of others and with the world around us. For more, follow me at http://davidpablocohn.com

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